December 04, 2012 12:17:09pm
Re: What is the story with the new generation of 'Jam bands'
I’d agree with most observations and much more of the sentiment. I’ll own as well that despite the coy, “in crowd”, “secret-club-house” lyrics of many Phish songs, I love the band and love listening to their live jams. I’d also suggest that Rift is a standout effort in real song writing, ( penned as it was lyrically by Tom Marshall – ‘nother Skillman boy made good! ). I’ll share as well an observation my daughter made that seems apt: “Divided Sky isn’t a song Dad, it’s six words, repeated once with a 45 minute jam. That’s not a song”.
On the current scene, I do believe that moe. is really making the extra effort to break the cycle the endless self derivation and Bong 101 lyrics. With, moe. you can really hear a lot of influencing coursing through their music and they’ve made more of an effort to build a sound that is THER and not half the bands heard around. A band with the possibility of heading in that direction is Moon Taxi. Nice sound, yes, still a bit Trey derivative.
This is also discussion I’ve more and more the last few years. I play and have played for decades. I play with cats who love to jam and this topic comes up – what’s up with jam bands?
Personally, I think is goes to basics. Consider the Dead. Other than a very few iconic early jam tunes, most all of the songs they played that BECAME jam tunes started out first and foremost as SONGS.
Very few bands are gonna score as well as the Dead did with lyricists – fulltime, dedicated, this is their sole job, LYRICISTS to pen Songs. Without Robert Hunter as the Dead’s full time lyricists, ( and credited early on as a member of the band ), the Dead would have been hard pressed to be too much more than just another hippie band from SF. Keep in mind as well, Garcia had played for years on the road in blue grass bands, heard and learned the song craft, the song building, before MMUJC ever played a note. Consider as well the spectrum of backgrounds that came together into the Dead at the time that they did and keep at the fore front of your thoughts – they did the Dead before there WAS a jam band scene.
To be sure, there was indeed a jam band scene in 1965. But is was found almost exclusively in jazz clubs, blues bars, and blue grass hoe downs. And in Garcia, Lesh, and Pig, those influences and many more were hard wired into the souls of the players.
Before the gate was dropped – they guys were not copying anyone. They worked hard at song craft and produced a catalogue, a golden catalogue of American song and folk lore that will live on long after we’re so much particulate matter in the dirt.
Dead Jams, those wonderful heart-soaring jams that emerged into the forefront of all we hold dear about the Dead came AFTER the songs were crafted and played with care and with a firm eye on trying to score a hit. My own take? I think the Dead were just a little too scary – image wise – for the treasures found of WMD and American Beauty to go large back when they first came out the way they have now. The point? Jam bands there days are actually at a disadvantage because they’re mostly trying to leap a bar set very high and their biggest mistake is trying to leap someone else’s high line.
If I could offer any counsel to jam bands today – hire a lyricist, invest on your song craft, be ruthless and savage with editing lyrics that mean something to only four people. Get the songs right first and the jams will flow like the sweetest wine.